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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Kris Davis

Kris Davis' Diatom Ribbons - Live At The Village Vanguard

Review by Gary Hill

This album is so intriguing. It features a live performance of music that has a lot of jazz at its core. It's certainly not restricted to that, though. There are electronic things at play, stuff that feels along the lines of King Crimson, music that would have fit under Rock in Opposition and more. This is unpredictable, unusual and very satisfying.  It's clearly art music and particularly experimental art music at that.

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Track by Track Review
Disc One
Alice in The Congo

Jazz meets The Residents as this gets underway. They create some strange, but compelling melodies and musical explorations as it drives forward. This has some rock music and even some King Crimson in the mix. There is a voice part that is spoken and pretty far back in where it becomes just ambience. Strange as this thing is, it's also oddly compelling. Frantic weirdness takes over around the halfway mark, dissolving into definite chaos. The piano gets really insane as it continues. There is some drum soloing for a time, and then they kick into frantic jazz jamming that eventually ends it from there.

Nine Hats
Very ambient as it gets going with just sporadic and measured bass and some odd percussion, as other elements are gradually added, that King Crimson thing, but the strange atmospheric side of that band, emerge. It climbs upward with both organic and electronic sounding elements. It's very freeform and tastefully weird, with some strange classical vibes in the mix. It never gets anywhere near the volume level of the opener.      
The Dancer
Coming in somewhere between the first two songs, this has a little more cohesiveness and almost a danceable groove. Given the title, that's appropriate. Of course, the track is still quite freeform and strange in some ways. It's much more mainstream than the two that came before it, though. I love the building pattern it gets going.
Weird jazz, Crimsonian elements and other freeform music is on the menu. There is a spoken vocal in this, not as far back as the voices on the opener, but still not out front.
Dolores, Take 1
There is some killer rhythm section jamming as this thing gets going. Freeform jamming ensues with piano taking the lead for a time. Guitar jumps in later as they keep moving through all kinds of crazed and strange jazz modes. Different instruments get into the spotlight along the road. As odd as it is, it also works so well.
Bird Suite, Part 1: Kingfisher
Killer fast paced jazz jamming is merged with some Rock In Opposition and King Crimson-like guitar as this gets going. This works through some shifts and changes as it continues driving. It gets into spacey ambient territory beyond the half-way mark. They rise upward and take into some more rock and roll based zones with some looped voice parts and scratching bringing a different angle to the table. There is a drum and bass workout further down the road. Some killer jazz jamming takes over from there. Then it drops to some dramatic piano to end.
Disc Two
Endless Columns

Weird piano based sounds get things underway here. Other elements are added to the mix as this gradually increases in volume and intensity. This gets quite freeform and strange with jazz, RIO and spacey things all in play. This works toward more mainstream jazz further down the road.

Bird Suite, Part 2: Bird Call Blues
Trippy, echoey weirdness that includes birds and some kind of weird chanting is on the menu as this gets going. There is a spoken section that comes in later, a person talking about Charlie Parker. It has some minor effects and processing as accompaniment. Then piano takes over from there. Other instruments rise up and they launch out into some killer jamming from that point. This thing really rocks and grooves as it gets further down the road. It has some more traditional jazz stylings and some killer guitar work. That motif eventually takes the track to its end.
Bird Suite, Part 3: Parasitic Hunter
Fast and chaotic piano gets us going here. There is a spoken loop later and some freeform jamming is on the menu with other instruments in play, too. This gets very crazed and some space elements are heard over the top at times. A guitar-oriented groove that's more predictable, but no less edgy takes over for a time. They eventually start adding other layers to that and working it toward more freeform zones as it continues.
Percussion and piano get this thing going in rather mellow ways. Guitar climbs over the top later, but this remains on the mellower side. It is measure, but also quite unique and challenging melodically. It gets into more of a mainstream jazz groove before it's done.
Dolores, Take 2
Percussion starts this. They get into some killer driving jazz jamming as it continues working forward. I really dig some of the bass work on this a lot. Everyone puts in a killer performance, and the guitar really jams in some crazed ways. There is some cool piano soloing further down the road, too. They really get frantic and adventurous as they drive onward later. There is some inspired jamming as this works toward the end.
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